Health officials: There is still time before school starts to get eligible students vaccinated

Benjamin Jensen receives the COVID-19 vaccine. (Stuart Johnson, KSL-TV)

PROVO — With the start of school just weeks away, the Utah County Health Department is reminding people that the COVID-19 vaccine is readily available, and that there is still time for eligible students to get their first dose before school starts.

"Just even that first shot is a great way to start the school year," said Tyler Plewe, the deputy director of the Utah County Health Department, adding that vaccine recipients should then get their second dose after the three-week waiting period.

Those 12 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Plewe said fully vaccinated students could avoid disruptions to the upcoming school year during contact tracing.

"If we are vaccinated and we are exposed, there's no need to quarantine," he said. "That's an important thing as school starts, as activities start that correspond with school that are so important socially for these kids to be involved in."

Plewe said that local health departments and school districts are awaiting updated school health guidelines from the state.

A spokesperson from the Utah Department of Health told KSL-TV that the guidelines are expected to be released next week.

Families who stopped by a vaccination clinic in Provo on Friday said they decided to get their teenagers vaccinated because of the spread of the delta variant and because of school sports and activities.

"Every family has to make that choice on their own," said Angela Jensen of Provo.

The Jensen family waited over the summer to make a decision about the vaccine for their son Benjamin, who is going into the 9th grade.

"Looking at school starting we decided, 'Well, he does have a little bit of asthma,'" Jensen said. "And I thought, 'Well, it's probably better since his three sisters that have had it, they all still have lung issues. If they try to run three miles, they just can't get enough air.'"

Benjamin Jensen said his siblings' experiences with COVID-19 played a big role in the decision-making process.

"Most of my siblings still taste chicken weird — and I love chicken — so I'd rather not lose my sense of taste or smell," he said.

Once he is fully vaccinated, Benjamin and his mom hope the first year of high school will be better than the last school year.

"I'd much rather get the vaccine than have the chance of getting COVID," he said. "So now being vaccinated, I'd be a lot more at ease, much more comfortable interacting with other people."

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